Courts

How Rafi Became the Face of Phoenix

Phoenix-based iHeartRadio talk-show host and DJ Suzette Rodriguez reps a Rafi Law Group T-shirt in front of one of his 1,000 Arizona billboards.
Phoenix-based iHeartRadio talk-show host and DJ Suzette Rodriguez reps a Rafi Law Group T-shirt in front of one of his 1,000 Arizona billboards. Rafi Law Group

Brandon Rafi is like a cross between Johnny Cash and the fictional TV lawyer Saul Goodman. He's everywhere, man. And if you follow his ubiquitous advice, you'd better call Rafi.


If you live in Phoenix, Tucson, or anywhere in between (and not under a rock), you probably recognize his image — that toothy grin and well-groomed beard against a solid red background that matches his silk necktie.

click to enlarge Valley residents love making memes about Brandon Rafi's ubiquity, like this one posted to Imgur and later shared on Reddit. - IMGUR
Valley residents love making memes about Brandon Rafi's ubiquity, like this one posted to Imgur and later shared on Reddit.
Imgur

For so many Arizonans, his vermillion billboards, bus shelters, buses, and trains are a hallmark of the daily commute to work. The prevalent advertisements echo a common instruction: “Call Rafi!”

No, not Raffi, the recording artist of Bananaphone and Baby Beluga fame, although that connection is the butt of quite a few jokes about the attorney online, leading to the nickname “Moby Dick.”

The image of Rafi the lawyer is so pervasive it's become the source of a social media phenomenon rife with hilarious memes from the community.

"I like to sue, sue, sue, sue lots of people," one social media commenter posted in 2020 as a play on Raffi's song "Apples and Bananas."

Rafi is a specialist in the field of personal injury law, especially injuries resulting from car accidents. He has helped thousands of Arizonans recover millions of dollars in medical expenses and compensatory damages.

Whether he's throwing out the first pitch at an Arizona Diamondbacks game or greeting visitors with a prodigious sign near Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Rafi is everywhere.


He is a Phoenix native and son of immigrant parents. He matriculated through Brophy College Preparatory, the University of Arizona, and the Phoenix School of Law.


Since then, his presence in the Valley of the Sun has proliferated.


Early this year, a user on the internet discussion forum Reddit coined the adage, “Every morning, a new Rafi sprouts in Phoenix.”


But just how many times does Rafi’s face appear in Arizona?


Nearly 1,000 times, the Valley icon told Phoenix New Times on Thursday. And that doesn't include a perpetual flurry of television, radio, and social media ads.


“We make a point to be everywhere,” he said.

Rafi stakes claim to more tangible advertisements than any other law firm in Arizona, including Lerner & Rowe, Suzuki Law Offices, and the Husband & Wife Law Team.


“Advertising is extremely important to getting our message out to our community,” Rafi said. “We want everyone in Arizona to know that we have their back and the most impactful way to do that is through advertising.”


It might be hard to remember a time when lawyers were barred from advertising at all in Arizona, but it wasn’t that long ago.


A 1977 case against the State Bar of Arizona was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that bans on lawyer advertising were unconstitutional nationwide.

click to enlarge A Valley Metro Rail train displays Rafi's face as it rounds a corner in Phoenix. - RAFI LAW GROUP
A Valley Metro Rail train displays Rafi's face as it rounds a corner in Phoenix.
Rafi Law Group

When Rafi founded the Rafi Law Group in 2014, he smartly began building what is now an advertising empire. It has only grown since then.


Trial attorneys splashed out a whopping $1.4 billion on advertising last year, according to a new report from the American Tort Reform Association, a Washington, D.C.-based legal reform coalition.


A 2015 report from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform found that 23 of the top 25 Google keywords linking ads to user searches are for personal injury law firms.


Rafi wasn’t willing to reveal how much he spends on ads.


“We get this question a lot, but I’d rather not focus on the budget,” he said. “Our goal is to get our message out there and protect Arizona’s injured and hurt.”

click to enlarge Rafi is a diehard Phoenix Suns fan. Before the Suns lost an NBA playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month, Redditors joked only Rafi could save the team's season. - RAFI LAW GROUP
Rafi is a diehard Phoenix Suns fan. Before the Suns lost an NBA playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month, Redditors joked only Rafi could save the team's season.
Rafi Law Group

The average price for billboards and other posters in Maricopa County is $2,000 per four weeks. So he could spend close to $26 million every year on physical advertising alone — $2,000 per four weeks for each of his 1,000 billboards across the Grand Canyon State.

And that doesn’t factor in the television, radio, and social media ads. And there are a ton of those.


In fact, Rafi’s omnipresence has become a meme online, especially on Reddit.


Users on the site have reveled in the game of Rafi Bomb, a play on “punch buggy.” Participants punch each other on the arm upon the first sighting of Rafi’s mug while driving around the Valley and exclaim, “Rafi bomb!”


That’s a lot of sore shoulders.

A married couple in Phoenix published a since-privatized YouTube video of themselves playing the game in 2020.

click to enlarge The Call Rafi 1s. - RAFI LAW GROUP
The Call Rafi 1s.
Rafi Law Group

Redditors also have created a trove of memes about the lawyer, including a play on a line from the 2021 film Spider-Man: No Way Home — “Everywhere I go, I see his face.”

click to enlarge RAFI LAW GROUP
Rafi Law Group

“Jesus, did he buy every billboard in Phoenix?” asked one Reddit user on a post titled “RAFI LAW GROUP RAFI LAW GROUP RAFI LAW GROUP.”


Rafi himself has joined in the fun with a few memes of his own.


On his Instagram account, the accident attorney posted a photo of custom Nike Air Force 1 sneakers tagged as the “Call Rafi 1s.” He parodied Drake’s 2015 mixtape If You're Reading This It's Too Late and urged Phoenicians to “Make Rafi’s hotline bling.” He even poked fun at the 2021 South Korean hit drama television series Squid Game with a horror-style playground game featuring his iconic headshot.


Early this month, Rafi posted a satirical fake tweet from business magnate Elon Musk, who recently bought Twitter, in which Musk appears to say, “Next, I’m going to buy Rafi Law Group. Make everyone call Elon!”


“We love seeing the memes and hearing about the games people play with our advertising, but I wouldn’t say that was ever the goal,” Rafi said. “We’re keeping up with the changing times and also having some fun on our social media.”


It’s working to drive business.

click to enlarge RAFI LAW GROUP
Rafi Law Group

The 36-year-old purchased a 6,822-square-foot, modern farmhouse-style home at Del Ray Estates in Phoenix for $3.75 million in 2019. The Arcadia mansion features a man cave with a bar, a 300-bottle wine room, and a pool and jacuzzi overlooking Camelback Mountain.


Now, he’s debuting a new jingle, some new Instagram filters, and new merch that, Rafi said, is “spreading like wildfire all over the state and on social media.” He also promised there are plenty of surprises in store.


“There are other attorneys in town?” Rafi asked in jest.


“Of course, I’m joking,” he said, but “there is only one Rafi.”


click to enlarge RAFI LAW GROUP
Rafi Law Group

click to enlarge RAFI LAW GROUP
Rafi Law Group
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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss